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Japan aiming to start production of new fighter aircraft in FY 2031

The Japan Ministry of Defense (MoD) has proposed to members of the country’s National Diet (parliament) that series-production of a next-generation multirole fighter aircraft to replace the Japan Air-Self-Defense Force’s (JASDF’s) Mitsubishi F-2 should start in fiscal year 2031 (FY 2031).

Documents obtained by Janes on 8 July show that the MoD aims to start prototype production in FY 2024, which will be followed by flight tests from FY 2028 ahead of the start of mass production three years later. The ministry plans to begin formally deploying the new aircraft around 2035, which is when the F-2s are scheduled to be retired.

The documents also show that work on the conceptual design of the aircraft, along with determining the weight and the thrust of the engine(s), is expected to begin by the end of FY 2020. A total of JPY11.1 billion (USD103.2 million) has been earmarked for initial design costs.

Moreover, Tokyo is planning to select a company to manufacture the aircraft’s fuselage by the end of January 2021, at the latest.

In December 2019 the MoD in Tokyo released this ‘conceptual image’ of the new fighter aircraft.  (Japanese MoD)

In December 2019 the MoD in Tokyo released this ‘conceptual image’ of the new fighter aircraft. (Japanese MoD)

The MoD has reiterated that it will pursue a Japan-led development of the new fighter, which is widely expected to feature two engines, with the possibility of international collaboration. In this context Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) is almost certain to lead local participation, with engagement on propulsion led by IHI Corporation.

Some of the ministry’s priorities for the new aircraft are that it features stealth and electronic warfare capabilities, sensors with advanced detection capabilities, and inter-operability with the US military.

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